Culture of Life
The zeal for living that my 1 year old son exhibits inspires me. He wants to explore everywhere, he is so quick to find something hilarious, he loves craziness, and he cries with passion whenever he sees his sister crying. One word keeps coming to my mind when I just look at the faces of my kids- Miracle. They keep growing and changing, but this thought keeps coming at me- they weren’t even in existence just a few short years ago- but now I can’t imagine the universe without them. They started off life as something so tiny they couldn’t be seen without a microscope- now they are undeniably eternally significant forces of life and love.
It has become an oft repeated trope of Catholics who are on the left or the self-consciously-unclassifiable portions of the American political spectrum that the pro-life movement has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility because of its association with the Republican Party, and thence with the Iraq War and the use of torture on Al Qaeda detainees. Until the pro-life movement distances itself from the Republican Party and all of the pro-life leadership who have defended the Iraq War and/or the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, the argument goes, the pro-life movement will have no moral authority and will be the laughing stock of enlightened Catholics everywhere.
Regardless of what one thinks about the Iraq War and torture (myself, I continue to support the former but oppose the latter) I’m not sure that this claim works very well. Further, I think that those who make it often fail to recognize the extent to which it cuts both ways.
I think we all have, if we are fortunate, a few good friends with religious and political viewpoints very different from our own with whom we regularly hold long discussions. For me, one of these is an uncle of mine. My mom is the oldest of seven, so this uncle is actually only fifteen years older than I am. He’s a long lapsed Catholic (he describes himself as believing in God but having no religion), a comic book and movie buff, an independent rocker, and someone who thinks a lot about the meaning of life, though he does so from a very different perspective than I do.
A few months back, my uncle was telling me about how he’d recently become pro-life (or anti-abortion, for those who ride the hobby horse of not being willing to accept the common use of the term.) His reason, he said, was basically the same as the reason he’d come to oppose capital punishment a few years before.
Hattip to Catholic Key Blog. Bishop Robert W. Finn gave an address at the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention on April 18, 2009 that deserves to be read by every Catholic in this country. He is blunt, forceful and truthful, qualities that have too often been in short supply among bishops in this country over the last four decades. Here is the text of his address:
Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard, is in the limelight now for her decision to deprive Jenkins of his fig-leaf over his invitation to honor Obama on May 17, 2009. I am not surprised by this development. She has long been an eloquent defender of the unborn in a completely hostile environment. She has written many articles on the subject.
There is so much being said and debated in this Notre Dame controversy, and so I want to add one more perspective to the mix. I wrote an essay for my personal website and I don’t want to take up a lot of space with it here, so I will simply provide the link and discussion can take place below.
I know many of you will disagree, perhaps even take offense at what I am saying, though essentially I agree with what most of you have already said (no I will not be defending Obama, or abortion – I am 100% pro-life). I think we should all be mature enough to handle a different perspective. I’m aware of the potential for things to get quite ugly, but I think there is a painful truth that needs to be acknowledged.
If I am truly wrong, so be it – I can be wrong. But if I’m right, or partially right, then it does no good to kill the messenger.
Over at New Catholic, Mark Stricherz expresses his doubts about the ‘dialogue model’ of engagement with culture, as mounted by some in defense of Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame:
But the dialogue model can’t, doesn’t, and shouldn’t entirely govern Catholic universities (and again, all universities). In exceptional cases, it breaks down. Surely these cases are absolute moral issues: torture, slavery, genocide, racial segregation, and yes, violence against pre-natal life (abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning). Universities have little to learn from politicians who support such intrinsic evil. What exactly would Notre Dame have learned from, say, Stephen A. Douglas in the 19th century about domestic policy or Dick Cheney in 2009 about foreign policy? Would Douglas and Cheney have changed their mind about slavery and torture?
I wanted to announce that I just started a Cause on Facebook- “Dads Protecting Daughters”. I include below the extended information about the Cause. I would welcome an expansion of this to go well beyond the Facebook orbit. Please feel free to comment:
I am a dynamic, orthodox Catholic who teaches high school, I’ve run for public office, I have lived in many countries. As a Christian convert I know the world quite well. I understand the challenge of overcoming the dominant Playboy/false feminism group think. I believe in an ecumenical Christian movement potential to stand up for our children before they are thrown to the wolves in our society.
The enemy is not one thing, it is a thousand ideas all of which are contrary to the dignity of human life. Strip clubs, abortion clinics, pornography, degrading music lyrics, divorce, contraception and endless marketing using base sexual instincts- all of these are manifestations of the cultural rot we are leaving for our children to live in.
As arguments raged over Obama’s executive order to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research a few weeks ago, the administration’s pro-life defenders emphasized that this was only a small incremental step beyond the Bush administration policy and that the Obama administration would be very careful in examining the ethical issues and most especially would not allow the production of cloned embryos.
The problem is that, as shown by an extended debate between Doug Kmiec and Robert P. George on the US News “God & Country” blog, current policy far from banning cloning, will encourage it. (HT: Mary Meets Dolly, one of the best resources for serious Catholics on genetics related ethical and scientific issues.)
Obama’s statement was:
And we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society.
As people wait for the results of the California Supreme Court’s review of Prop 8, Douglas Kmiec and one of his Pepperdine Law collegues have put out a proposal that the government get out of the marriage business entirely, and instead bestow “civil union” certificates on households of any configuration or persuasion.
Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriage less important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
I have this particular video clip of toddling quadruplets laughing their diapers off saved on my YouTube list for quite a long time now. You may have seen this awhile back on America’s Funniest Videos. These four quadruplets never fail to put a smile on my face. So enjoy and get your Saturday off to a great start.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
I was talking with a good friend who is both a faithful Catholic and a principled progressive the other day, and she said something which (sometimes feeling mildly guilty about how politically convenient calls to sanction pro-choice Catholic politicians are for me) I had not thought of before.
“I think the bishops are partly to blame,” she said, in regards to the difficulties pro-life Democrats have in getting elected. “There are so many fears of seeming like shills for the Republicans that pro-life and pro-choice Catholic Democrats get treated much the same.”
I’d never thought of this, but really: what a slap in the face. If you’ve taken the politically difficult stand of being a pro-life Catholic Democrat in the historically Catholic-heavy regions like New England or the upper mid-west, and the Church leadership treats your candidacy exactly the same as the pro-choice Catholic incumbant you’re running against, how much incentive is there to take the courageous stand?
And so we end up with this kind of situation.
One of the most frequently voiced criticisms of right-leaning Catholics is that they were insufficiently critical of the Bush Administration over the past eight years. According to this criticism, conservative Catholics were too eager to paper over the faults of the Bush Administration, and they failed to object at critical points to the Administration’s policies. While such generalizations can be problematic, I agree with this critique in broad outline. One of the lessons I’ve taken from the past eight years is that this is a temptation that must be consciously resisted.
It’s hard to express my disappointment, then, at the recent post entitled Mexico City? Try Gaza Instead…over at Vox Nova. Here’s the post:
In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”
Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.
When I first came across this group, I thought it was a joke. Well it is, but they are serious. The humorous side of me wants to say, “Great! I am very happy that people with your views will not be having kids!” The more serious side of me thinks it a calamity that any group of people can seriously call for the extinction of humanity. Needless to say, although I will say it anyway, this group supports abortion.
This ties in with a particularly foolish blog entry by a woman who believes the path to social progress is to end human reproduction.
Pope John Paul II was fond of speaking of “a culture of life”. If we don’t have a culture of life in this century I think we will most certainly have a culture of death that will dwarf the body count of the last century. Silly groups like Voluntary Human Extinction and the deluded blogger are merely ludicrous manifestations of a culture that increasingly views human life not as a sacred gift from God, but rather a disposable commodity. As Catholics we face no greater challenge than rekindling in our society a respect for innocent human life, and an optimism that life, with all of its challenges and pain, is to be embraced with joy.